Desera Engholm's track and field career was one filled with accomplishments, including a few school records and multiple trips to the state meet.
Her career ended on the highest of notes as she brought home the state title in both the discus and shot put - an accomplishment made more impressive by the fact that taking up the throwing events was, as she put it, by accident.
"I thought I was going to be a runner and I kept trying the 400," the recent Pequot Lakes graduate said. "One day, (then-throwing coach) Taylor Stevenson had me come over and try it, and Bud (Bjornaraa, assistant coach) said he saw something in me. I just kept practicing it, and it stuck."
In the years since, through hard work and determination, she has grown into the state's top thrower and met several new friends along the way.
"I love the nature of the throwers," Engholm said. "I think that is what pulled me in the most. It is so calm over there. We just talk. It is competitive, but at the same time you meet so many great people."
At the state meet - the final meet of her high school career - she felt her first two discus throws were a bit underwhelming, but were good enough to get her into the final round. She could tell her final throw was a good one as soon as it left her hand, and it earned Engholm her first state crown.
"Discus makes me a little more nervous," she said. "It can be way more unpredictable. The wind plays a factor. When you are throwing a shot put, the wind doesn't really do too much. With the disc, it really does ... I knew when I was practicing, it was going to be rough."
In the shot put, an event she said comes more naturally to her than the discus, Engholm knew after a single warm-up throw that she could win a second title, which she did.
"It still feels like a dream," she said. "When I was younger, I never, in my life, thought I would be a state champion at all. Of course, when you're little, you have these big dreams of going to the Olympics or something like that, but my dreams were much smaller. When this happened, it was so surreal. I didn't know how to react."
It was her third time at the state meet, showing a marked improvement each time.
"My first time at state, I don't think I was in my mature, competitive mode," Engholm said. "Now, I definitely have tactics I use. Being younger, the girls were huge and I let them psych me out. My first time at state didn't go well, but I was happy I made it there. I told myself the next year, I was going to place, and I did that ... After that, I wanted more than just a medal."
Her improvement came on hours upon hours of training. She took weightlifting classes during the school year to continue increasing her throwing power and hired a personal trainer in the offseason. She also decided to forgo her senior season of basketball to focus on her throwing.
Her life outside of track and field also receives plenty of focus, however. In addition to track and field, Engholm ran cross-country and played basketball for most of her school years. She has also been active in choir and sang the national anthem at several school events.
"In everything I do, I deal with different people," she said. "In the singing part, it is a different type of people than what you would see at a basketball game. I just like being with these different people - I'm very social and I love to talk - so I like doing different things because it is always a different adventure with different opportunities."
She is also a unified partner and coach with the Special Olympics and plans to pursue a career in special education.
"I love it, and it's what I want to do. I have been working with a single special education student for 10 years, and she graduated with me ... With the Special Olympics, I love sports and I can share that passion for sports with these kids, which they absolutely love."
Engholm's passion for special education is trumping all else at the moment. She plans to attend Central Lakes College for her associate's degree in the fall, and hopes to throw the shot put in open meets. After that, she is considering attending Bemidji State University and hopes to join the track team then, but she admits that is not her priority.
"Some people have said I'm making a mistake by not (prioritizing college track and field) but I am so ready to begin working with special ed kids," she said. "That is something I love, and I am so ready to go chase that."